Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” Not only do I think he’s right, I would argue that it’s even harder now than it was during his lifetime. No matter where we turn there are influences everywhere trying to get us to conform to a particular way of thinking or people to reject us for acting or being a certain way. For me, the biggest challenge is not necessarily completely changing what I have become, but better portraying the person I am on the inside to the world. We may not think that we’re conformers or followers, but standing on the sidelines just trying to blend in and not get criticized is still not being true to yourself.
As a Christian, this is somewhat of a hard topic to tackle. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus repeatedly tells us multiple times that in order to find him we must lose ourselves. “And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'” (Luke 9:23) “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) I believe there is a misconception that following Christ means to lose all concept of who “you” are. When I use the term “you”, that does not mean being true to everything about you. It is about being true to the person that God made you to be. It does not mean that you have the freedom to give into your sins because they’re part of “you”.
Many Christians will say that being true to yourself is exactly what Christ is trying to get you away from. You are to be more like him. In many ways I agree, but I also think that sometimes people take it to the extreme. Your talents, gifts, and individual characteristics are things that God has blessed you with. It seems that sometimes Christians have a tendency to view the whole person as bad and not stop at the person’s sin. They destroy the whole person and are left with no identity and no passion in life. Christianity is one of the only religions that believes we each have an individual self and we retain that self after we die. If we were suppose to be “just Christ”, wouldn’t we have a Eastern concept of an afterlife where we become a part of God and believe everything about our earthly life is an illusion?
So what’s the risk? The risk is producing pride, arrogance, and selfishness within us. By being true to yourself, it is easy to think that you achieved everything by your own work, can do things alone, and feel superior over others. When we turn our lives over to Christ, we are ultimately just handing him the reins to our life. Following Christ doesn’t mean leaving everything he has blessed us with behind. It means handing him control over those blessings. We still have the talents we did before, just a much better leader who will decide where to put those talents to use.
I think it’s safe to say that all of us are holding back in some area of our life due to fear. There’s some people whose character is completely fake, but the majority of us reside somewhere in the middle. We like ourselves in the comfort of our own homes, but not enough to share “us” with other people. I know for me it’s a feeling of hesitation…like I know I am not being 100% the person that I am being called to be, but it’s safer to just be comfortable. I’m afraid if I show everyone exactly who I am I’ll be rejected or isolated from the crowd. The majority of people show just enough of themselves to be unique, but as little of themselves to make sure they still fit in.
We are obsessed with being politically correct and not offending anyone in today’s society. Obviously, I am not advocating hurting other people’s feelings. But the only way to not offend anyone is to not say anything at all, and I think that’s what a lot of us are doing. We’re so scared we’re going to offend someone that we just stuff everything we feel. On moral issues, the longer you sit back and don’t take a side on sin, the more and more you start questioning whether it’s that bad in the first place. We do not need to take a side with pride, arrogance, or condemnation. But we do need to take a side.
The most influential people seem to always know themselves well. They know who they are, and they are comfortable being that person wherever they are. Too many people stay lukewarm or cold because they are the paths of the least resistance. For whatever reason, Jesus has called us to remain in this world. Too many of us seem to be just waiting around to die. God has a purpose for each and every one of us, and it is our responsibility to carry that out. We should be truer to ourselves than the rest of the world because we should be honoring the individuality that God’s given to us. Led by Jesus and the Holy Spirit, we can be the most influential and inspirational people in the workplace. But first we need to leave behind fear and be led, instead of trying to lead.